Still around after all these years: Chicago to play show at Spyglass

It was 1972, and Dad was taking me to my first rock concert. The band was Chicago — who after several radio hits had again seized the airwaves with “Saturday in the Park.”

As we turned onto the highway, Dad wondered aloud whether Chicago would still be around in 40 years. He explained that the Glenn Miller Orchestra, for instance, remained active, even though most of the original members were gone.

Privately, I scoffed at Dad’s naivete: “Rock bands don’t do that!” I thought to myself. “They just break up — like the Beatles.”

But he had the last laugh here; nearly five decades later, Chicago is indeed still around. In fact, they’ll play at Sunbury’s Spyglass Winery on June 25. And yes, only three founding members remain — but if you fear this dampens their power and precision, you must’ve missed their sizzling set at the Bloomsburg Fair in 2017.

Indeed, the band’s eighties power-pop (“You’re the Inspiration,” “Hard Habit to Break”) make it easy to forget how they’ve always been able to set the stage on fire. The very next morning after that 1972 show, I found their first LP at a garage sale. When the proprietor queried my excitement, I peeled back my shorts to show thighs still bruised from the pounding they’d taken as I banged along to the incredible tunes.

That quality remained high over the band’s first nine albums, reaching its apex with “Chicago VII,” a perfect blend of intricate, almost classical pieces (“Prelude,” “Devil’s Sweet”) and catchy hits (“I’ve Been Searching,” “Call on Me,” “Wishing You Were Here” — the latter with the Beach Boys).

After XI, though, album quality dropped off sharply — perhaps due in part to the accidental death of unsung guitar hero Terry Kath in 1978. When my sister — at a loss for a birthday gift but knowing my fondness for this group — gave me “Chicago 17” in 1984, I was frankly unthrilled; I’d simply lost interest.

But something cool was about to happen.

“Seventeen” turned out to be their biggest seller, yielding four monster hits and introducing these apparent has-beens to a whole new generation.

Personally, I think the best cut on that record is the overlooked “Once in a Lifetime”; but then, I’ve always loved compositions by trombonist James Pankow — including “Make Me Smile,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” and “Colour My World.”

When I met my future wife, we discovered that despite widely different musical tastes, Chicago was one band we both enjoyed; “Colour My World” served as the first dance at our wedding in 1986.

We saw Chicago together in the nineties, and they still sounded grand. I’ve continued to follow their many releases, now up to “XXXVI” — including four live albums, several greatest hits, two Christmas records and a dandy set of big band standards (“Night and Day,” 1995).

Currently, Williamsport’s Repasz Band, for which my wife and I both play, features a Chicago medley in their summer rotation. In fact, on the same evening as Chicago’s local gig at Spyglass Ridge Winery, Repasz has a concert in Milton.

Needless to say, we won’t be playing that night.


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